March 14/21, 2016; Volume 30, Number 19
By Ken Ryan
Palm Coast, Fla.—When Mike Newberry took over as FCICA chairman a year ago, he encouraged more members of the formidable floor covering contractors association to get involve in the organization in big and small ways alike. That message resonated loud and clear at the group’s 2016 convention here at the Hammock Beach Resort.
There was record attendance at the event, including 52 first-time attendees, and 33 new members. “We had 30 attendees who were not members participate in the meeting prior to convention,” Newberry told FCNews. “Participation is getting higher, and we are getting some energy from our group. It’s not just a small number getting involved because that would be a danger, so I am very encouraged by the participation.”
The two major initiatives addressed at the meeting were the progress of the certified installation manager (CIM) curriculum and the launch of a task force focused on installation recruitment.
A few years ago FCICA shifted its focus to the installation/project manager. Now it wants to elevate the level of professionalism through CIM, which addresses the need for an industry-recognized skill level for installation/project managers based on a series of rigorous educational modules covering a range of tasks including budgets and financing. FCICA launched the first of five CIM training modules in 2014.
“We have been ramping up since then,” Newberry adding that at convention 16 people completed the course while 33 new applicants entered the program. He likens it to a Master’s degree for the installation manager. “It is really a skill set that is lacking. To move from the field to managing projects is a big leap.”
J.R. Allred, chairman of the education and training committee, urged flooring contractors and their associates to “make the time” for this program. “It is worth the investment,” he said.
Vendors in attendance welcomed the effort to enhance the professionalism of the project manager. “We know all contractors aren’t created equal,” said Paul Eanes, vice president of sales, Americas, for Metroflor Corp. “CIM is a breath of fresh air because when something goes wrong manufacturers are often the ones who are blamed. This is a step in the right direction.”
Sonny Callaham, technical services manager for Royal Adhesives and Sealants, added: “The industry has been focused on installers and overlooking project managers, and yet the project managers are the ones who really need to know what is going on. No other industry association has anything like CIM for project managers.”
Like many other flooring organizations, the FCICA is rightfully concerned about the growing installation problem. To that end, FCICA recently introduced Successors, a task force made up primarily of people under 40. Their goal is to work with contractors and their associates to mine for new talent.
Graham Capobianco, technical applications specialist for Roppe, heads the 17-member task force, which is in its initial stages. Capobianco, 30, said he has done extensive research on skilled labor and found that 73% of businesses in the U.S. are having trouble finding qualified people, “and half of those companies say it is affecting their bottom line, so it is a big problem.”
On the plus side, he noted that 65% of jobs in the market require a two-year degree or less, which is encouraging to the segment of would-be applicants who are not “college material.” Capobianco also said advancements in technology have made flooring installation somewhat less taxing on the body than in years past and safer overall—factors that could make it more desirable for new entrants.
“We have a lot of outreach work to do, we are still taking baby steps,” Capobianco said. “Our goal is to get more people involved in the committee so we can create some actionable plans. All the discussion has been about the problem—everyone knows we have a problem. The time is now to focus on solutions.”
Amanda Newberry, architectural specialist for Ardex Americas, is also on the Successors task force. She also believes it’s going to take a lot of work, but she id encouraged by the fact that the group has many “hungry, excited people who want to get things done for the industry. We have to first get feet in the door, specifically contractors under 40. We’ve got to get them excited about it. We all realize that if we don’t get this solved, we don’t have a business.”
Kim Oderkirk, executive vice president of the FCICA, said the organization decided to expand its tabletop segment to a full commercial trade show with extended hours this year. (Forty-eight vendors turned out, the most for an FCICA event.) For returnees and newcomers alike, the show drew a favorable response.
Jim Muggleton, project manager at UFloor System, said he is encouraged by the growth of membership and the collaborative spirit that he sees at these events. “There is a lot of sharing, there are no closed doors. It is a fantastic show because of its relative size. It feels like family.”
Doug Tallman, product manager, business development, Schonox, said this is the one show “where competitors are able to talk without someone looking over your shoulder. I think the reason for that is because FCICA puts us in a less stressful environment. It’s a good mingling show.”
Cassie Alverson, director of MOI sales and marketing for Artistic Finishes, said the benefits of FCICA go well beyond networking. “We do a lot of business here, and we always have. We are always successful in getting new customers at this show.”